President of Capella University, Acknowledges Business Success and Leadership of Colette Nichols, PhD

Dr. Colette Nichols discusses the comments from the President of Capella University about the parallels in our leadership styles caused her to reflect on some key principles of leadership that have worked for her over the years and that she want to share with others.

The first principle is understanding the value of the individual. People want to feel they make a difference and that they’re valued and their input matters. So when you tap into that, as a leader, you unleash tremendous creativity. Early in my career, I felt as an executive I had to have all of the answers and all of the solutions to these complex problems. What I’ve learned and I’m passing on is that every individual has worth. The whole team is so much better than the individual for creativity and performance. My role as a leader is to create a culture where people can achieve their highest potential and the mission and vision of the organization.

The second principle is to get more comfortable in your own skin and find your voice. I had a lot of work experience, and some things I did well and others not so well. But in my last position, as the CFO&COO of a hospital in Los Angeles, I really found my voice and was able to perfect and hone these kinds of skills. Which is why we were as successful as we were.

The third principle is to know how to accept and embrace your role in an organization and really exemplify how to help the organization through that role you’ve been given. Just like in a family, there are different roles are assigned, formally or informally. One of my lessons is not to get hung up on whatever that role is, but to embrace it and add value to the organization. In doing so, the organization flourishes and new growth opportunities present themselves as a leader. That’s how I started as a CFO and got promoted to a dual role of CFO & COO. You have to believe in the mission, vision, and values of the organization. And that’s part of leading others and leading by influence and helping people get excited about the mission and vision and how we treat each other through our values. This gets back to not what you say, but what you do that embraces the purpose of the organization. I have always been tenacious and viewed my role as helping support the bigger goal of the organization. It has never been about me, it’s always about the big, audacious, bold organizational goal we are trying to achieve.

The fourth principle, and perhaps the key principle, is the need for coaches, role models, and mentors for all of our professional growth and development. I honed many of these leadership skills by observing my mentor and role model, Mike Wall, the former CEO of the hospital and a highly successful, seasoned, 40-year healthcare CEO. Because I had these leadership skills and I embraced my role and the organization’s goals, I won his trust and confidence. What I learned from him is to always take care of your people. He says what he means, and he means what he says. No one wanted to let him down because of trust and respect. And we all felt — at every level of the organization — that our contribution mattered, we were valued, and that we were part of something bigger than ourselves. He values the worth of the individual in such a way that we all set a higher standard for ourselves … more than anything he actually set for us. It’s all about relationships, and they don’t just start or end because you work together. Relationships are deep and they carry on through your entire career and life. I left the hospital and had my first baby daughter, Olivia, in December and have now moved on to launch my finance and operations consultancy and The Empower Foundation. But because of the relationship and the fact that we knocked it out of the park at the hospital, Mike and his wife, Barb, are still a huge part of my life and my daughter, Livvy, is growing up calling her Uncle Mike and Aunty Barb.

Overall, Dr. Colette Nichols wants to share her passions & aspirations with those around her, in order to make the world truly a better society than it was before.

Finance & Operations Executive | Consultant | Healthcare & Technology | President & Chairwoman of The Empower Foundation | Los Angeles, California